A style guide is the user manual for your brand. Sounds simple enough, right? But why do you need a user manual for your brand? You would be surprised to know how important it is to have a style guide. The idea behind the guide is that your branding designer spells out for you the entire “look” of your business and then gives instructions on how the design applications should be implemented. If you were to use a print vendor or production designer for a marketing piece, you would provide them the specs for the project along with your style guide and they would be able to produce something for you that is on-brand.
There is a difference between a brand designer and web designer, and while at Stellen we specialize in both, that is not always the case. The style guide can be provided to the web designer, allowing them to create a beautiful site that correctly represents your brand. If you don’t have a style guide before hiring a web designer, chances are, they will use your logo but they will pick the fonts, design accents, and even sometimes the colors, at will. This can lead to a major brand disconnect and be detrimental to your success.
Your style guide should contain all layouts of your logo. Ideally, every brand should have three layouts: a horizontal, a vertical, and a logo mark. Full color and one color versions of the logo, as well as any background color variations, should also be included. We also like to show unapproved ways to use the logo, like rotating it or using it on a unapproved-colored background. It will also show all your branded fonts, font sizing, spacing, and colors. All the branded colors should be listed with their PMS #, Hex #, and CMYK and RGB codes, to ensure your colors stay consistent on both print and web projects. It also important to make sure you have any design accents spelled out in the guide (like if you use a certain treatment on a photo or background pattern, for example). Lastly, we always like to include a sample marketing piece—maybe a business card layout or a postcard—to show the viewer how all the elements work together.
When used properly, brand is strong and definitive: it shows your customers you know who you are, and when used improperly and changed often, it gives your customers the opposite feeling, almost as if your brand is having an identity crisis (and no one wants to hang out with someone in the middle of an identity crisis). Your brand guide solidifies your brand image and identity, ensuring it will remain strong and consistent. Every brand should have a user manual, and we at Stellen are happy to help you develop yours.